The concept of homesteading is historically rooted in the efforts of the 1860s that contributed to the settlement of the western United States. As a means of reclaiming declining neighborhoods, urban homesteading enjoyed fleeting popularity since the early 1970s when, for a brief period, the notion of urban pioneers salvaging communities received exposure in the media. However, enthusiasm waned as the reality of operating the program tempered the idealism of the implementing agencies and prospective beneficiaries. Chandler examines urban homesteading programs from their beginnings at the local level in 1973, through federal enactment in 1974, and operation until May 1986. Based on case studies of Baltimore, Detroit, and Philadelphia, her work also draws on federal and local government reports and documents, as well as personal interviews with city officials and persons currently and previously associated with the Section 810 Program of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The study provides a historical and legislative perspective on the development of urban homesteading and explores such relevant issues as the attitudes and experiences of local government, prevailing influences on the respective city's implementation plan, the effects of federal grants on local autonomy, methods of program implementation, program adaptation within the different political and organizational contexts, and development performance records of the individual cities. This carefully organized work investigates the various aspects of urban homesteading through an in-depth look at the literature on federalism, intergovernmental relations, and policy implementation. It presents the basic theme and constructs in the light of certain demographic and socioeconomic features, and discusses variations in urban homesteading implementation by comparing operations in each of the sample cities. The conclusions and findings are summarized and their theoretical implications are assessed.